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Cobb Wines Mariani Vineyard Chardonnay 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The original seeds for Cobb Wines were planted in 1989, when David began cultivating pinot noir vines at his sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard. A marine ecologist by trade, David spent years studying soils and climatological charts in his search for the ideal place to found his vineyard. His search led him to the ridgetops of the Sonoma Coast, where he believed he would be able to grow grapes perfectly suited to a more complex and graceful style of California pinot noir. On weekend and summer breaks from college, David would be joined in the vineyard by his son Ross, who quickly grew to love the hands-on work of growing winegrapes.
After graduating with a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture, Ross embarked on a winemaking career, learning his craft from an array of pinot noir winemakers on two continents. At the same time, Ross and David began making small, homemade lots of non-commercial pinot noir from Coastlands fruit. “We dug a little cellar out under the deck of our house at Coastlands,” says Ross. “We would punch down the wines in little open-top fermentors on the deck and then gravity flow the wine into barrel. Even though it was all very primitive, the wines showed promise, and each year we learned more.”
Though David’s original plan for Coastlands Vineyard was simply to sell grapes to a few artisan vintners, Ross had a different vision for Coastlands’ exceptional fruit. After spending nearly a decade developing his winemaking skills, he approached his parents with the idea of founding Cobb Wines—a goal that would allow David, Diane and Ross to guide every step of the winemaking process, from the planting of the vineyard to the crafting of a sophisticated, cool-climate style of pinot noir. This goal was realized in 2001, when David and Ross crafted 130 cases of Cobb Wines’ inaugural Coastlands Vineyard pinot noir. The wine sold out almost immediately, and continued to do so with each new vintage.
Since then, the Cobb Wines vineyard program has evolved to include four other hand-tended, independently owned vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. Though these vineyards share certain essential Sonoma Coast characteristics, they each have individual soil types, subtly different microclimates, and unique combinations of pinot noir selections. Not only does this diversity distinguish the Cobb Wines portfolio, it also ensures Ross and David access to excellent fruit every vintage.
In the winery, Ross focuses on a style of pinot noir that authentically reflects the terroir of each vineyard, striving for a more complex, aromatic, lower-alcohol expression of the varietal picked at lower Brix and aged with a modest amount of new French oak. By remaining true to this elegant and complex style, Cobb Wines has earned a reputation for crafting benchmark single-vineyard, Sonoma Coast pinot noirs.
A vast appellation covering Sonoma County’s Pacific coastline, the Sonoma Coast AVA runs from the San Pablo Bay to the Mendocino County border. The region can actually be divided into two sections—the “true” Sonoma Coast, marked by high rainfall, marine soils, cool temperatures, and saline ocean breezes, from which one can actually see the ocean—and the warmer, drier vineyards further inland, creating a diversity of wine styles. Contained within the appellation is the much smaller and more focused Fort Ross-Seaview AVA.
Sonoma Coast is highly regarded for elegant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and, increasingly, cool-climate Syrah, with high acidity, moderate alcohol, firm tannin, and fruit that is rarely overripe. One of the most favorable sites within the region is the Petaluma Gap, where a break in the coastal mountain range allows Pacific winds and fog to funnel through and cool the vineyards.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made. In Burgundy, Chardonnay produces some of the finest white wines in the world, typically tending towards minimal intervention in the winery and at its best resulting in remarkable longevity. This grape is popular throughout the world, but perhaps its second most important home is in California, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay’s flavors tend towards grapefruit, green apple, minerals, and white stone fruit, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of fig, melon, and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice (as well as texture), while malolactic fermentation can impart soft, buttery acidity.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with simple seafood, light chicken dishes, and salads. Richer Chardonnays marry well with cream or oil-based sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. These Old-World style wines have been dubbed the “New California Chardonnays,” and anyone who claims they do not like Chardonnay should give them a try.